Appalachia Profiles of Mountain People

Water From Juney Whank Branch

Hiking at deep creek nc

One year ago today it was a beautiful day. It’s easy for me to remember the weather because me and the girls went hiking.

Hiking at deep creek campground

We didn’t go by ourselves, there was a whole gang of folks.

Swinging on grapevines in western nc

Along the way to our destination there was a little grapevine swinging and

Tree climbing

a little tree climbing.

Relics from the past

We all kept our eyes out for relics from the past.

Washtub relics

If the washtub in the creek wasn’t so rusted I’d swear a woman was coming back to get it directly.

Car parts from the past

Seeing car parts where there should be none is always a reminder of how time does indeed change everything especially the landscape.

Staged photos

There was a flurry of staged photos. I’m pretty sure this one ended up on a bulletin board with Chitter looking like she was holding on for dear life in the tip top of a tall tree.

Rock wall on juney whank branch

No one had lived in the area in 70 years or more, but the remaining rock walls bore testament to their work ethic.

Bryson city, nc

By now you may be wondering why in the world a bunch of people would go on a hike in February. Would you believe me if I told you we were going to get a drink of water?

Juney whank branch

Commodore Andrew Casada was buried exactly a year ago today. I only met Commodore once. He was a charmer, at least he was with the ladies in my family. The girls and I loved him from the instant we met him. I’m pretty sure he had that effect on most people.

Commodore was born on August 7, 1909 in Clay County, NC. When he was just a young boy, his family moved to Swain County, specifically to Juney Whank Branch.

After his funeral service, several members of his family decided to hike to Commodore’s childhood homeplace and drink a cup of water from the spring in his honor. They welcomed me and the girls to come along too.

Such a simple thing to do: walk to an old spring and drink a cup of water, yet the act had such meaning.

It usually is the simple things in life that mean the most if we will only see them. I’m glad we got to tag along on the trip to Juney Whank Branch. It was such a powerful day. I know we’ll never forget it.



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  • Reply
    February 8, 2012 at 9:34 am

    What neat way to pay tribute to someone. Juney Whank Branch? Love that name!

  • Reply
    teresa atkinson
    February 8, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Love this post – and want to observe – that looks like a trail tree in the tree climbing picture. That is something Bobby and I are exploring more of. Did it point towards the branch?

  • Reply
    February 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    The beauty of nature has always been a wonder to me. It amazes me how anyone could want to sully or harm it, but in life, I have observed that just like there are some that bless everything they touch, there are some that corrupt everything they touch. Sad, isn’t it?
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    February 6, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Wonderful story! I don’t know where Juney Whank Branch is but the name is stuck in my mind now. It has a nice rhythm to it and I love saying it. I love places like that and the stories that surround them. I hope I can visit there sometime and raise my glass to Mr. Casada as well!

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    February 5, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    A simple, meaningful tribute. How fitting to honor a friend so.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Commodore Casada lived to be 101, Wow maybe he was drinking all those years from the “fountain of youth”. Wonderful memories you have and to share for generations to come.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    February 5, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Real nice, Tipper. Real nice. Thank you.
    Interesting, too, the relics.
    I have been taking pictures of an ancient farmstead site, hidden in the underbrush, with relics from the 1930s.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    February 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    What a great tribute to a person. Little gestures mean a lot.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    What a wonderful commemorative act! And God provided a perfectly beautiful day to make it happen! Loved the photos.

  • Reply
    Madge @ The View From Right Here
    February 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    What a sweet way to remember a loved one and enjoy a hike in the woods…

  • Reply
    janet pressley
    February 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    Great tribute! I love that area around Deep Creek. Used to hike to Juney Whank falls when camping at Deep Creek. Nana

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    What a nice, thoughtful tribute to
    Commodore Casada. It thru the Blind Pig that I’ve been able to
    share the friendship of his sons.
    Since my dad and Commodore was the same age, I often wonder if their paths ever crossed, and I’d
    bet they would have been friends.
    My reading glasses kinda fogged up
    while reading Jim and Don’s comments and I know their dad is
    smiling down on them and proud.

  • Reply
    Robert Loftis
    February 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    enjoyed the story and the pictures

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    February 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

    What a wonderful tribute you helped to make to a person so meaningful to their family and friends. Who know, maybe you happened upon the new fountain of youth.

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for sharing the story and the pics with us. Really enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    February 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

    How beautiful! The words, the thoughts, the pictures! I so enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Tipper—Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have such a gracious and gentle way of touching powerful, poignant feelings. Obviously today, as has been the case for a week now, has been a tough one for me. Still, Dad had 101 years of a good life lived in the heart of the mountains, and that gave us treasure beyond measure.
    Three thoughts. First, Don and I had made a practice of drinking from the old spring where Daddy grew up, high up on Juneywhank Branch, for years. I think it probably got started when Daddy was still spry enough to make the hike—and that was the case well into his 80s—but I’m not sure. Sometimes together, sometimes separately, we would make the off-trail trip and ramble around. We think a cousin, daughter of our Aunt Jessie, who also spent her childhood years there, may come down later this year to make a hike full of symbolism and memory.
    Secondly, there is no clear answer to the origins of the place name Juneywhank (sometimes rendered as one word, sometimes as two). It is almost certainly Cherokee in origin and may have been an Indian’s name (for Junaluska “Juney” Whank), meant place of the bear or where the bear crosses, or something else.
    Finally, for anyone who might wish to wander to the place which loomed largest in the memory of Don and my Dad’s early years, Juneywhank Branch feeds into Deep creek right beside the parking lot at the lower Deep Creek Trail trailhead. There’s a well-maintained trail to Juneywhank Falls, but from there it’s the better part of a mile on up the little branch to where Dad lived. It’s bushwhacking all the way but pretty easy going in terms of both gradient and problems with vegetative barriers. Don can probably provide a fancy GPS type map if anyone is interested.
    Of course the site has far more meaning to us than most, but anyone who goes there has to pause and ponder, full of wonder, at how a large family could eke out a living in a little upland flat. It’s an enduring, and for me an endearing, testament to a hardscrabble way of life and the spirit of Appalachia.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Oh what fun! I love seeing things in the woods from days gone by; the old washtub would make a lovely planter!

  • Reply
    Darlene LaRoche
    February 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Great story…..loved the photos. Thanks for sharing…..

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    February 5, 2012 at 9:11 am

    How kind of you to remember our father and that day.
    That spring was writ large in his recollections. The first time the two of us went up in there together, the spring was the first thing he showed me.
    Daddy had a lot of stories related to the home place, several focused around the spring and springhouse.
    He’d tell how he would sneak in there on a hot summer day to cool off, and would find grandma’s buttermilk too much of a temptation and get him a big drink of it.
    In later years, he’d sometimes say that he never did tell Grandma about it, almost wistful that he could confess to her.
    Well, I’d bet anything that Grandma Minnie already knew and smiled to herself that a boy thought he could get away with such desperate mischief.
    I go up in there several times a year, most often alone. There’s not a time goes by but what I get a drink from that spring. A verse from Revelation comes to mind:
    “He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    February 5, 2012 at 9:06 am

    If you “squint” you can see the bear passing behind the tree of the grapevine swinger….a ghost of the past…
    What a wonderful story and thought to honor the Commodore Casada….Nothing else could be said…
    Thanks Tipper,
    Wonderful photos and story

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I loVe your walk through the woods, What a neat name of the area!
    Smiles, Cyndi

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

    What a nice way to honor a person but a walk where he once walked and then to have a drink from the spring –such a wonderful tribute in Mr.Casada’s memory.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 5, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I’m sad to say I never got to meet Commodore Casada but I did meet his brother Allen Hall Casada many times. You see he was the mailman (we called it mailboy) so I met him at the mailbox or passed him on the road.
    I was wondering if Jim and/or Don has retraced the journey their Dad’s family took a century ago. I would love to see a map with the place names marked. I’m sure they didn’t follow the present day road system. They would had to cross some of the most rugged mountains in the Eastern United States. They would have crossed at least two rivers at least once, probably more. Not too bad a trek for a young single man with only his gun and his gear. But add a wife, five children, all their household goods and livestock. From the cushy comforts of Clay County to the hardscrabble existence of Swain. There must have been a compelling reason to undertake such an endeavor.
    So Jim/Don if it’s in a book let me know where. If it ain’t, it needs to be. Let me know when it’s ready.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 5, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Yes, it is the little things that make life worth living. That was a beautiful tribute the the man and a wonderful send off….so to speak. A drink of water for the journey.
    I haven’t walked the mountains in a long time and seen the remains of home places. When I did I was always impressed with the thought that nature will take back her own. We clear land and build homes and towns. Then we spend our whole lives keeping them. You know mowing the lawn and clearing weeds from the garden. As soon as we leave nature quietly and slowly reclaims her space. In time you will never know we were there.
    We humans think we are so big and strong and smart, but nature just quietly waits.

  • Reply
    Ed Myers
    February 5, 2012 at 8:36 am

    A couple of days ago, I took a “hike” with the folks at Land Trust of the Little Tennessee, along the east side of the Little Tennessee just south of one of second of the three swinging bridges that remain between Franklin and Fontana Lake.
    About a half mile down what was really just an overgrown dirt road, we came to the ruins of what was once a family home, the remains of which could be seen in a stacked stone fireplace, some charred boards and a lightening blasted apple tree. That and a spring issuing from the hillside about 20 feet from the foundation stones. Beneath the trickle was a stone and mortar basin, about the size and shape of a bathroom sink, at the base of which was a small metal pipe from which a thin but steady flow of water dripped awaiting a cup that would never again catch its offerings.
    This day, too, was quite beautiful, as only sun blasted winter days and blue skies can be. The acre or so of flat field in front of the house was just beginning to be colonized by blackberry canes, so it must have seen use fairly recently, although the house was of greater vintage.
    As always, as with you, it made me wonder who and why, a part of our heritage returning to the soil, accompanied by the gurgle and splash of living water.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    February 5, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Commodore was a fine man and an asset to Swain County as was his wonderful wife Anna Lou Moore Casada. They raised three fine kids who have reflected well on their “raisin”. I live about a mile and a half from Juney Whank and have visited it many times. Though it is beautiful one can see how hard Commodore’s parents worked to keep the family fed. This trip was a great salute to Commodore’s memory as is this story. I’m sure Jim, Annette and Don appreciated you and the family going along on their salute to their Dad. I’m sure they will appreciate this one also.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    February 5, 2012 at 8:02 am

    Very nice photos. You are right about the simple things, Tipper! They really are the most memorable.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    February 5, 2012 at 7:58 am

    The name Juney Whank Branch has such an old-fashioned ring-snd Appalachian musical sound, too. It would be interesting to hear the story of how the stream got that name. Your trek to Juney Whank, drinking water from it (amazingly, still pure enough not to harm people!), swinging on grapevies, climbing trees, and just being together on a Sunday afternoon enjoying a trek through the woods brought back wonderful memories. Thanks for the pictures, the story, the memories!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 7:47 am

    What a beautiful gesture you all made in remembrance of Mr. Casada. The symbolism of that cup of water touched me deeply.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    February 5, 2012 at 7:45 am

    those are the best kind of tributes! But now you have me wondering who was Juney Whank!

  • Reply
    February 5, 2012 at 5:55 am

    i love the name Juney Whank Branch. makes me smile to hear it. what a wonderful way to remember him, and i bet he was looking down and enjoying all the fun you had swinging and climbing

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